My Path Less Traveled has brought me all the way to the final quest of the Khazad-dûm deluxe, Flight from Moria. I’ve had a pretty good time bringing Dwarves through the first two quests of the box; will the expansion finish strong, or fall flat right at the end? Lace up your boots and don’t trip, because we’re about to start running!
What we’re up against
As always, I’m going to do my best to avoid story spoilers. If you’re the sort of person who also wants to avoid spoiling the quest mechanics, you can skip over the collapsed sections of this post.
It’s worth mentioning that this quest is one that’s kinda fun to play without knowing what you’re getting into—something to consider, even if you’re not normally against mechanical spoilers.
Heart of darkness
Where the first two quests from this box were pretty mechanically straightforward, Flight from Moria is a bit farther out on the “weird mechanics” side of things. The progression of the quest is wacky, with 7 different Stage 2s that you travel to in a random order. Only two of those Stage 2s have a win condition on them; the rest are just worth Victory points.
Don’t get too excited about all of those extra Victory points, though! The Staging Area comes preloaded with a copy of The Nameless Fear, who has X for stats across the board, where X is the number of Victory points you have in the Victory display. This means that the more you successfully clear Quest Stages, Locations, and Enemies with Victory Points, the worse The Nameless Fear is going to get! It’s not a boss in the traditional sense, though, since there’s nothing you can do to defeat it—you just have to outrun it!
As a way to mitigate the danger of The Nameless Fear, each Quest Stage lets you “bypass” it at the end of the Combat Phase instead of clearing it and racking up its Victory Points. To do this, you place the Stage it on the bottom of the Quest deck and advance to the next Quest in the stack—but you don’t flip it over yet. You flip the quest card only after committing your questers during the next round (thereby preserving the surprise of what Stage is next until you’re already in the thick of it). This means it might be worth intentionally underquesting a bit so that you don’t accidentally clear the next Stage and end up adding to The Nameless Fear’s power.
So how does one win? One way is to find the Quest stage called Blocked by Shadow and take a gamble: each player looks at the top card of the encounter deck. If it’s a Treachery, then that player loses the game—full stop. If you make it past that test, however, then all you have to do is clear its 9 quest points in order to win the game.
If that’s a little too random for you, there’s another option, but it’s more involved. First, you have to find the Abandoned Tools, an Objective that is hiding somewhere in the encounter deck. (If it doesn’t show up on its own, one of the other Stage 2 cards helps you locate it). Finally, you need to find your way to Escape from Darkness, the second Quest Stage with a victory condition on it. Then all you have to do is exhaust the Hero with the Tools four times to win the game.
Of course, all of this needs to happen while you’re ducking and weaving your way through darkened corridors, fighting off Goblins and other unsavory creatures. There’s a lot to this quest!
You can see everything the quest has to offer over at the Hall of Beorn.
Building a deck
In my previous two posts, I mentioned having built a deck using Glóin and Gimli but not quite being able to pull out a win with it. Well no more! I was finally able to get the deck to work well enough to feature the father-son duo.
The idea is to play with both Glóin and Gimli’s ability to turn damage tokens from something negative into something positive. With both of these Heroes in my lineup, I can take my first attack or two undefended and actually come out on top for it! And if the game goes long enough, I might be able to use cards like Citadel Plate or Boots from Erebor to get even more value out of them.
It makes sense to bring along a Lore Hero as my #3 so that I get access to some healing. Since I’m trying to stick to the Dwarf theme, that means I’m bringing Bifur along again. I’m going to lean more on repeatable healing like Daughter of the Nimrodel or Self Preservation over Event-based healing, since the more damage I heal the more damage I can turn into currency with Glóin.
From there, I fill in the deck with all of the Dwarf cards I can fit and then stuff some Core Set staples in around the corners, paying special attention to cards that can help my stout friends out during the Quest phase.
Gimli (Core Set)
Glóin (Core Set)
1x Brok Ironfist (Core Set)
3x Daughter of the Nimrodel (Core Set)
2x Erebor Hammersmith (Core Set)
3x Erebor Record Keeper (Khazad-dûm)
2x Faramir (Core Set)
3x Gandalf (Core Set)
2x Gléowine (Core Set)
2x Longbeard Orc Slayer (Core Set)
2x Miner of the Iron Hills (Core Set)
2x Veteran Axehand (Core Set)
3x Boots from Erebor (Khazad-dûm)
2x Citadel Plate (Core Set)
2x Dwarrowdelf Axe (Khazad-dûm)
3x Narvi’s Belt (Khazad-dûm)
2x Protector of Lórien (Core Set)
2x Self Preservation (Core Set)
3x Ancestral Knowledge (Khazad-dûm)
3x Durin’s Song (Khazad-dûm)
2x Quick Strike (Core Set)
2x Radagast’s Cunning (Core Set)
2x Secret Paths (Core Set)
2x Sneak Attack (Core Set)
3 Heroes, 50 Cards
Working with the deck
This deck works best when I’m willing to take big risks for big rewards.
When possible, I like to take the first couple of attacks on the deck undefended. That extra surge of 2-3 resources from Glóin‘s ability in the first couple of rounds can really help me to set up my board state quickly. The second undefended attack can go on Gimli, powering him up so he can obliterate anything that should happen to rear its ugly head.
I like to put extra hit points from cards like Boots from Erebor and Citadel Plate on Glóin first, and Gimli second, since you really only need so much attack power, but resources are always useful. Because Glóin is often flush with extra cash, he’s also a good target for Narvi’s Belt (although depending on the board state I have played the belt on Bifur instead sometimes).
The deck doesn’t really have a repeatable defender, instead relying on either healing up Glóin to take more undefended attacks or getting down chump blockers to tank hits for me. Sneak Attack or Quick Strike can both help in emergency situations where I find myself engaged with more things than I can safely defend.
And because I know somebody’s going to bring it up—yes, I did throw a copy of the much-maligned Brok Ironfist in the deck. He’s absolutely as bad as everyone says he is, but I figured that in this deck (especially since I’m intentionally taking so much damage) it’s possible for me to accidentally lose a Hero to a bad Shadow Effect, so maybe this is Brok’s one chance to come out of the binder for a bit to play!
As long as I win my early-game bets, I should be able to keep the Staging Area clear and quickly bring the quest home.
The play’s the thing
Victory on: Normal mode
I managed to win my first game in just four rounds, although admittedly I got pretty lucky with the way in which the encounter cards fell. I decided to play again, just for fun, and my second attempt took much longer—and was a much more nail-biting game—but I still managed to win. Both games were fun (even stressful, in a good kind of way) and it always feels good to be able to score what feels like a desperate victory.
Give me the details!
In my first game, I happened upon Blocked by Shadow right out of the gate. I decided to take the gamble that there would be no Treachery on top of the deck (especially since I had only just started playing so I had nothing to lose) and it paid off. After that, I did everything I could to quest for as much progress as quickly as possible. A copy of A Dreadful Gap made things interesting, especially with its 3 Victory Points, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to prevent me from winning on round 4.
My second game took a good deal longer, with lots of little Goblins harrying me the whole time. I eventually managed to find my way back to Blocked by Shadow again, and since my Heroes had taken a lot of damage and were starting to look a little worse for wear, I decided to take the gamble and was able to win again—although this time not without casualties. I ended up swarmed by too many small Enemies and had to throw Gimli at them in order to be able to get my other Heroes to safety. Talk about a rough flight!
The final verdict
So, having played all the way through the Khazad-dûm expansion with nothing else but a Core Set, would I recommend the experience to new players?
Short answer? Yes.
Long answer? Yes, as long as you like Dwarves.
All three of the quests in the box are solid. The first two hit my table pretty often, even with the full cardpool, since they’re solid no-muss no-fuss quests. The third I play significantly less, due to its sometimes random nature—but it’s still a fun quest, at least until you feel like you’ve mastered it.
The player cards are also pretty great; although it’s worth noting that they’re exclusively focused on the Dwarf trait. They synergize well with the existing Core Set cards (which already have a fair number of Dwarf cards among the ranks) and really do help to fill out your card pool in interesting ways.
At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong with Khazad-dûm!
It makes some amount of sense that the first deluxe expansion for the game would play well with the Core Set even if you didn’t have the six Adventure Packs that were released in between. The cardpool wasn’t big to begin with when it was first released, so it doesn’t really feel like there’s anything missing here. Plus, the game design is solid. It’s a mighty fine place to start!
That wraps it up for now. I’m going to focus a little more on my Thematic Nightmare series for a little while, but you can bet I’ll be returning to my Path Less Traveled once the new Deluxe is released!
“Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.”
Next up on Darkling Door…
I’ll be building a thematic deck to take on the first quest of the Nightmare Ringmaker cycle, The Dunland Trap!
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